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Friday, August 22, 2014

A LIFE, INTERRUPTED: WHY THE ALS ICE BUCKET CHALLENGES MATTER

Yesterday, my longtime friend and mentor, the brilliant attorney, Bill Tendy, died after a long battle with ALS.  He was 60, with two great kids. 

            ALS (“Lou Gehrig’s Disease”), a progressive, neurodegenerative disease, is dreadful.  There is no cure, and those afflicted tend to become more and more paralyzed.  To anyone who thinks the ice bucket challenges are silly, or stupid, or disrespectful, I say:  they are helping to make progress.  To date, they have helped raise over $42 Million for research and raise awareness.  During the same time last year, $2 Million was raised. 
            Back to my friend.  In his prime, Bill was, bar none, one of the greatest trial attorneys who ever lived, no joke.  Yes, he handled many high profile cases and I’m sure if you google his name you’ll find them.  But the reason he was a great trial attorney is because he truly, truly cared about his clients and the outcome;  he loved the law;  he loved trying cases before a jury and took command of the courtroom;  he had a mind like a steel trap;  and he was like a bloodhound, he left no stone unturned.  That, and he had (CENSORED)s of Steel.  Really, he had the nerve to try stuff in court I wouldn’t even dream of and I’m pretty (CENSORED)y as a trial attorney.
            I’m thinking of the Iris Pyne trial.  Iris Pyne was a victim of domestic violence who suffered from Battered Woman’s Syndrome and shot her husband in what Bill asserted was self defense.  It was 1993.  The judge in the first trial refused to let in evidence of Mr. Pyne’s prior assault convictions or the orders of protection Iris had against him.  Basically, Bill knew his client was getting an unfair trial because the judge would not let in the evidence of domestic violence.  Bill employed a strategy that was geared toward what he knew would be an appeal:  he put on no case whatsoever.  He did not mount a defense, did not put on one witness or put in any evidence.  That, my friends, takes cojones, trust me.  Iris was convicted and sentenced to 15 years to life, and Bill went to work on the appeal.
            He won the appeal, a grueling task in and of itself, and Iris was granted a new trial.  I don’t remember a lot of the details of the second trial other than that Bill was really, really at the top of his game.  This wasn’t Law and Order or CSI, this was real life, in Ulster County, NY, and you just felt like you were watching the Derek Jeter of the legal profession when Bill took command of the courtroom.  As in, a legend is passing through here.  The jury acquitted Iris Pyne of all counts.  She went on to live a life of relative anonymity.
            After being diagnosed with ALS, Bill decided to spend as much time with his beloved family as he could.
            This past Thursday night, August 22nd, at my request, Coach Kennedy had the kids at Newburgh Rowing Club practice put on an epic Ice Bucket Challenge.  (I had already donated to ALS the week before).  The plans might have been a little too epic, given the water conditions.  But, in the end, I have a video of a crew of kids lifting up an 8+ crew shell which already weighs over 300 pounds, filled with ice and water, and dumping it on themselves.  Out of a 3-minute video, I cut it down to 10 seconds, and mixed in some still photos and some music.  The rest of the video shows all of the mistakes and the mishaps.  The kids and parents running around like chickens with their heads cut off, laughing, hollering, possibly cussing.  But that’s what Life is, the stuff that happens when you’re busy making other plans.  The highly edited video is great, you just hear the ice falling, and the kids laughing, and the cheering.  I like to think that Bill would have loved it.
            The following morning, Friday, August 23rd, at 7:30 am, Bill entered the Kingdom of Heaven after a long, long, valiant battle with ALS.  Rest in peace, my dear friend, you battled to the end like the warrior that I knew you to be. 
            Life is a Gift, my friends, choose to embrace it, hug your kids a little tighter, be patient, make a mess, laugh a big belly laugh, and if you’re ever lucky enough to get the chance, dump a 60-foot long crew shell full of ice water on your head!  We are blessed, remember to count your blessings! <3 Mrs. Lo www.LoBiondoPage.Blogspot.com

POST SCRIPT:  to see the video of the Newburgh Rowing Club Ice Bucket Challenge, go to https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?v=831760350189881&set=vb.212107098821879&type=2&theater